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Definition of adoption terms commonly used in the open adoption profession.

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ADOPTION TERMS

Glossary - A

Adoptee - An adopted person. Some adopted persons object to being called an "adoptee" because: (1) It distinguishes an adopted child from a birth child in the same family. (One does not say, "This is my birth son, Johnny.") (2) It implies adoption is the central fact of that person's life (which, of course, it may be).

Adoption - A court action in which an adult assumes legal and other responsibilities for another, usually a minor.

Adoption - agency An organization, usually licensed by the State, that provides services to birth parents, adoptive parents, and children who need families. Agencies may be public or private, secular or religious, for profit or nonprofit.

Adoption assistance - Monthly or one-time only subsidy payments to help adoptive parents raise children with special needs. These payments were initially made possible by the enactment of the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-272) which provided Federal funding for children eligible under title IV-E of the Social Security Act; States also fund monthly payments for children with special needs who are not eligible for federally-funded subsidy payments. "Adoption assistance" can also refer to any help given to adoptive parents.

Adoption attorney - A legal professional who has experience with filing, processing, and finalizing adoptions in a court having jurisdiction.

Adoption benefits - Compensation to workers through employer-sponsored programs. Some examples of such benefits are financial assistance or monetary reimbursement for the expenses of adopting a child, or provision of "parental" or "family" leave.

Adoption consultant - Anyone who helps with the placement of a child, but specifically someone who makes it his or her private business to facilitate adoptions.

Adoption disruption - The interruption of an adoption prior to finalization÷sometimes called a "failed adoption" or a "failed placement".

Adoption dissolution - The interruption or "failure" of an adoption after finalization that requires court action.

Adoption exchange - An organization which recruits adoptive families for children with special needs using print, radio, television and Internet recruitment, as well as matching parties (which bring together prospective adoptive parents, waiting children and their social workers in a child-focused setting). Adoption exchanges can be local, state, regional, national or international in scope.

Adoption facilitator - Individual whose business involves connecting birth parents and prospective adoptive parents for a fee (only allowed in a few States).

Adoption insurance (adoption cancellation insurance) - Insurance which protects against financial loss which can be incurred after a birthmother changes her mind and decides not to place her child for adoption. Adoption petition The legal document through which prospective parents request the court's permission to adopt a specific child.

Adoption placement - The point at which a child begins to live with prospective adoptive parents; the period before the adoption is finalized.

Adoption plan - Birth parents' decisions to allow their child to be placed for adoption.

Adoption reversal - Reclaiming of a child (originally voluntarily placed with adoptive parents) by birth parent(s) who have had a subsequent change of heart. State laws vary in defining time limits and circumstances under which a child may be reclaimed.

Adoption subsidies - Federal or State adoption benefits (also known as adoption assistance) designed to help offset the short- and long-term costs associated with adopting children who need special services. To be eligible for the Federal IV-E subsidy program, children must meet each of the following characteristics: a court has ordered that the child cannot or should not be returned to the birth family the child has special needs, as determined by the state's definition of special needs a "reasonable effort" has been made to place the child without a subsidy the child must have been eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at the time of the adoption, or the child's birth family must have been receiving - or eligible to receive - Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Benefits available through subsidy programs vary by State, but commonly include: monthly cash payments - up to an amount that is $1 less than the foster care payment the state would have made if the child were still in basic family foster care medical assistance - through the federal program (and some state programs), Medicaid benefits social services - post-adoption services such as respite care, counseling, day care, etc. nonrecurring adoption expenses - a one-time reimbursement (depending upon the state, between $400 and $2,000) for costs such as adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, physical and psychological examinations, and other expenses related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs. Before adopting a child with special needs, ask your agency about the availability of federal and state subsidies.

Adoption tax credits - Non-refundable credit which reduces taxes owed by adoptive parents who claim adoption expense reimbursement under P.L. 104-188; may be claimed on Federal taxes (and in some States with similar legislation, on State taxes).

Adoption tax exclusions - IRS provisions in the Federal tax code which allow adoptive parents to exclude cash or other adoption benefits for qualifying adoption expenses received from a private-sector employer when computing the family's adjusted gross income for tax purposes.

Adoption triad - The three major parties in an adoption: birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted child. Also called "adoption triangle" or "adoption circle."

Agency adoption - Adoptive placements made by licensed organizations that screen prospective adoptive parents and supervise the placement of children in adoptive homes until the adoption is finalized.

Apostille A simplified certification of public (including notarized) documents used in countries that participate in a Hague Convention. This simplified form contains numbered fields (which allow the data to be understood by all participating countries regardless of the official language of the issuing country). The completed apostille form certifies the authenticity of the document's signature, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, and identifies the seal/stamp which the document bears. Documents needed for intercountry adoptions require the attachment of an apostille (rather than authentication forms) if the foreign country participates in the convention.

Artificial insemination - Impregnation of a woman by one of many possible artificial reproductive technologies (ARTs).

Attachment - The ability of a child to form significant and stable emotional connections with other people, beginning in early infancy with one or more primary caretakers. Failure to establish such connections before the age of five may result in difficulties with social relationships as severe as reactive attachment disorder.

 

Glossary - B

Birth parent - A child's biological parent.

Bonding The process of developing lasting emotional ties with one's immediate caregivers; seen as the first and primary developmental task of a human being and central to the person's ability to relate to others throughout life.

 

Glossary - C

Certification - The approval process (detailed in State laws or regulations) that takes place to ensure, insofar as possible, that adoptive or foster parents are suitable, dependable, and responsible. "Certification" of documents involves a seal or apostille required by law or regulation affixed to a public document (such as a birth or marriage certificate or court record) to attest to its authenticity or to a general document to attest that the document. has been notarized by an authorized official.

Closed adoption - An adoption that involves total confidentiality and sealed records.

Consent to adopt or consent to adoption - Legal permission for the adoption to proceed.

Co-parenting - A long-term (formal or informal) agreement to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities by which extra caregivers support parents by providing ongoing respite parenting when needed.

Custody - The care, control, and maintenance of a child which can be legally awarded by the court to an agency (in abuse and neglect cases) or to parents (in divorce, separation, or adoption proceedings). Child welfare departments retain legal custody and control of major decisions for a child in foster care; foster parents do not have legal custody of the children they care for.

 

Glossary - D

De facto - A term meaning "in actual fact", "in deed" or "actually", regardless of legal or normative standards. In a legal context, the phrase refers to an action or a state of affairs which must be accepted for all practical purposes, but which has no legal basis. A "de facto family" is a "psychological family" in which members have ties to each other even though they are relatives by birth or marriage and do not have a legal document recognizing their relationship.

De facto adoption - A legal agreement to adopt a child according to the laws of a particular State which will result in a legal adoption process once the adoption petition is filed with the appropriate court; an equitable adoption.

Decree of adoption - A legal order that finalizes an adoption.

Dependent child - A child who is in the custody of the county or State child welfare system.

Disclosure - The release or transmittal of previously hidden or unknown information.

Disruption - The term disruption is used to describe an adoption that ends before it is legally finalized, resulting in the child's legal custody reverting back to the agency or court that made the original placement and the child returning to foster care and/or to other adoptive parent(s).

Dissolution - The term dissolution is used to describe an adoption that fails after finalization, resulting in the child's legal custody reverting back to the agency or court that made the original placement and the child returning to foster care and/or to other adoptive parent(s).

Dossier - A set of legal documents which are used in an international adoption to process a child's adoption or assignment of guardianship in the foreign court.

 

Glossary - E

Equitable adoption - The legal process used in some States to establish inheritance rights of a child, when the prospective adoptive parent had entered into an oral contract to adopt the child and the child was placed with the parent but the adoption was not finalized before the parent died.

Employer Assistance - Adoption benefits provided to employees by employers which may include direct cash assistance for adoption expenses, reimbursement of approved adoption expenses, paid or unpaid leave (beyond federal leave requirements established through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993), and resource and referral services. For a list of employers who provide benefits, call the National Adoption Center at (800)-TO-ADOPT.

Extended family - A child's relatives (other than parents) such as aunts, uncles, grandparents, and sometimes even close friends.

 

Glossary - F

Fictive kin - People not related by birth or marriage who have an emotionally-significant relationship with an individual.

Finalization - The final legal step in the adoption process; involves a court hearing during which the judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child's legal parents.

 

Glossary - G

Genealogy - A family's genetic "line", family tree, or a record of such ancestry. Grief A feeling of emotional deprivation or loss.

Grief - may be experienced by each member of the adoption triad at some point.

 

Glossary - H

Homestudy - A process through which prospective adoptive parents are educated about adoption and evaluated to determine their suitability to adopt.

 

Glossary - I

Identifying information - Information on birthparents which discloses their identities.

Independent adoption - An adoption facilitated by those other than caseworkers associated with an agency. Facilitators may be attorneys, physicians, or other intermediaries. In some States independent adoptions are illegal.

Infertility - The inability to bear children.

Intercountry or international adoption - The adoption of a child who is a citizen of one country by adoptive parents who are citizens of a different country.

Interstate compact - A voluntary agreement between two or more States designed to address common problems of the States concerned.

Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA) - An agreement between member states that governs the interstate delivery of and payment for medical services and adoption assistance payments/subsidies for adopted children with special needs. The agreements are established by the laws of the States which are parties to the Compact.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) - An agreement regulating the placement of children across state lines. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have independently adopted the ICPC as statutory law in their respective jurisdictions.

 

Glossary - J

 

Glossary - K

 

Glossary - L

Legal risk placement - Placement of a child in a prospective adoptive family when a child is not yet legally free for adoption. Before a child can be legally adopted by another family, parental rights of his or her birth parents must be terminated. In a "legal risk" adoptive placement either this termination of parental rights has not yet occurred, or it is being contested. In some cases, termination of parental rights is delayed until a specific adoptive family has been identified.

Legally free - A child whose birth parents' rights have been legally terminated so that the child is "free" to be adopted by another family.

Life book - A pictorial and written representation of the child's life designed to help the child make sense of his unique background and history. The life book includes birthparents, other relatives, birthplace and date, etc and can be put together by social workers, foster and/or adoptive parents working with the child.

Loss - A feeling of emotional deprivation that is experienced at some point in time. For a birth parent the initial loss will usually be felt at or subsequent to the placement of the child. Adoptive parents who are infertile feel a loss in their inability to bear a child. An adopted child may feel a sense of loss at various points in time; the first time the child realizes he is adopted may invoke a strong sense of loss for his birth family.

 

Glossary - M

Matching - The process of finding prospective families specifically suited to meet the needs of a waiting child, not to be confused with "placement".

Maternity home - Residences for pregnant women. The number of homes has decreased over the past three decades, and existing homes often have a waiting list of women. The women who live in a maternity home may pay a small fee or no fee to live in the home and they often apply for public assistance and Medicaid payments.

 

Glossary - N

Non-recurring adoption costs - One-time adoption expenses, which may be at least partially reimbursed by States up to a maximum amount to families adopting children with special needs. Allowable expenses for this reimbursement benefit can include the cost of a home study, adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees, physical and psychological examinations, travel to visit with the child prior to the placement, and other expenses related to the legal adoption of a child with special needs.

 

Glossary - O

Open adoption - An adoption that involves some amount of initial and/or ongoing contact between birth and adoptive families, ranging from sending letters through the agency, to exchanging names, and/or scheduling visits.

 

Glossary - P

Placement date - The time at which the child comes to live with the adopting parents.

Post-legal adoption services - Services provided subsequent to legal finalization of the adoption. There are primarily four types of post-legal service providers: social service agencies, private therapists, mental health clinics and self-help groups.

Post-placement supervision - The range of counseling and agency services provided to the adopted parents and adopted child subsequent to the child's adoptive placement and before the adoption is legally finalized in court. Social worker reports of this required supervisory period are forwarded to the court.

Post-reunion issues - A range of feelings from euphoria to despair possible after the reunion of birth relatives. Family members in reunion may feel a "let down" or a range of feelings including guilt, anger, jealousy, confusion or happiness that may be related to completion of the reunion process and the beginning of a process whereby family members do or do not negotiate an ongoing relationship.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - A condition in which victims of overwhelming and uncontrollable experiences are subsequently psychologically affected by feelings of intense fear, loss of safety, loss of control, helplessness, and extreme vulnerability and in children the disorder involves disorganized or agitated behavior.

Psychological parent - A person, though perhaps not biologically related to a child, whom the child considers as his parent; sometimes called a "de facto" parent.

Putative - Generally regarded to be true.

Putative Father - Legal term for the alleged or supposed father of a child.

Putative father registries - Registry system that serves to ensure that a birthfathers' rights are protected. Some states require that birthfathers register at these facilities, while other states presume that he does not wish to pursue paternity rights if he doesn't initiate any legal action.

 

Glossary - Q

 

Glossary - R

Relinquishment - Voluntary termination of parental rights; sometimes referred to as a surrender or as making an adoption plan for one's child.

 

Glossary - S

Semi-open adoption - An adoption in which a child's birth parents and pre-adoptive parents may exchange primarily non-identifying information. After the child is placed in the adoptive home, contact with the birth family may involve letters or pictures or other communications sent through the intermediary of the adoption agency or the attorney who assisted in the placement.

Surrender - Voluntary termination of parental rights. An action taken by birth parents to voluntarily "make an adoption plan" for a child or "relinquishquot; a child for adoption.

Surrender papers - Legal document attesting to the signator's voluntary relinquishment of parental rights to a child.

 

Glossary - T

Traditional adoption - Most often used to refer to a domestic infant adoption in which confidentiality is preserved. Equivalent to a closed adoption.

 

Glossary - U

 

Glossary - V

Voluntary adoption registry - A reunion registry system which allows adoptees, birthparents, and biological siblings to locate each other if they wish by maintaining a voluntary list of adoptees and birth relatives.

 

Glossary - W

 

Glossary - X,Y, Z

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